Aaron Hernandez was a star tight end for the NFL's New England Patriots when he was charged with the execution-style murder of a friend in Massachusetts in 2013. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Aaron Hernandez grew up in Connecticut and played wide receiver at Bristol Central High School, where he was named Connecticut's Gatorade Player of the Year in his senior year. Heavily recruited, he chose to go to the University of Florida, where he moved to tight end and played three seasons, from 2007-09.
He helped the high-powered program win the 2009 BCS National Championship, then left school and declared for the 2010 NFL draft.
Despite his obvious talent, he wasn't drafted until the fourth round, allegedly because teams were concerned about his admitted (and repeated) use of marijuana and multiple failed drug tests in college.
He was finally drafted as the 113th player overall by New England, where he teamed up with fellow rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski to catch passes from veteran quarterback Tom Brady
For three years they were a sensational pairing; in 2011 Hernandez and Gronkowski set a new NFL record for the most catches (169), touchdowns (24) and receiving yards (2237) by tight ends on one team in one season.
That season the team went to the Super Bowl, losing to the New York Giants 21-17. After the season, Hernandez signed a lucrative five-year, $37.5 million contract extension that would keep him with the team through 2018. In 2013 he signed an endorsement deal with shoemaker Puma.
Then came a shocking development. On June 17, 2013, the body of a semi-pro football player named Odin Lloyd was found in an industrial park in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Lloyd had been shot to death. The next day police were seen at Hernandez's home less than a mile away.
Hernandez and Lloyd had been friends, and police determined that they had been seen together on the morning of June 17th, not long before Lloyd was shot. The news of Hernandez' involvement stunned fans, and reporters and camera crews quickly took places in front of his house.
The media frenzy grew until the morning of June 26th, when Hernandez was arrested and taken to jail. He was released by the New England Patriots a few hours later.
That afternoon, he was formally charged with first degree murder and was ordered held without bail. In May of 2014, he was also charged with a double murder from 2012. The New York Times reported that Hernandez was "charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado. They were killed while stopped at a traffic light in Boston’s South End on July 16, 2012." The charges mean that Hernandez may already have committed murder when he signed his contract extension and played in the 2012 NFL season.
While serving a life sentence for the Lloyd murder, Aaron Hernandez was acquitted in 2017 on the double murder charge of Abreu and Furtado.